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Ready for match day four
Published in Ahram Online on 08 - 01 - 2020

Game four of the Champions League group stage kicks off first. Former champions TP Mazembe of DR Congo, South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns and holders Esperance of Tunisia top their respective groups with seven points each, while it's a three way horse race at the top of Group B with the trio of Egypt's Al Ahly, Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel and Sudan's Al Hilal all tied at six points.
Group A fixtures launch on Friday with Zamalek of Egypt taking on Zambia's Zesco United at Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo, while TP Mazembe face Primeiro de Agosto of Angola in Lubumbashi on Saturday. There were no winners or losers in the previous match day of this group, as both games ended in a 1-1 draw. TP Mazembe returned from neighbouring Angola with a point from Primeiro de Agosto. Rainford Kalaba gave “Les Corbeaux” an early lead at Luanda, just for Agostinho Cristovao Paciencia “Mabululu” to restore parity four minutes later. Mazembe continued their unbeaten run in this term.
In Ndola, visitors Zamalek took the lead at Zesco United 18 minutes from time. Substitute Mustafa Mohamed's header looked to grab the Egyptians a famous away victory, but Quadri Aladeokun scored for the hosts just six minutes later as both sides shared the spoils.
Accordingly, the situation of this group stands with TP Mazembe (seven points), Zamalek (four points), Zesco United (two points), and Primeiro de Agosto (two points).
In Group B, four fixtures kick off on Saturday with Platinum of Zimbabwe hosting Ahly of Egypt in Bulawayo, while Sudan's Al Hilal take on Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel at Omdurman. The group is at the halfway stage after three matches have been played. It looks like a real Group of Death with three sides tied at the top with six points each. Al Hilal surprised their hosts Etoile du Sahel in Rades to record their first ever victory in Tunisia and return home with maximum points. Athat Attahir scored after the break to send his new Egyptian coach Hamada Sedki to the best of debuts.
In Cairo, veteran Walid Suleiman scored in each half to give Ahly a 2-0 victory over Platinum. Suleiman first headed from Ali Maaloul's cross, then scored from the spot as Ahly grabbed their second successive home victory. With Platinum trailing the group pointless, it's a three way summit with goal difference separating Etoile, Ahly and Hilal.
As it stands in this group Etoile du Sahel lead with six points followed by Ahly (six points), Al Hilal (six points), and Platinum 0 points.
Cairo will witness a tough day in the second-tier Confederation Cup when Masri and Pyramids clash again in Group A on Sunday at the 30 June Stadium in New Cairo. At midway of the mini-league stage, the picture has started to become clearer, especially for this group.
It was a day to remember for debutants Pyramids of Egypt a fortnight ago when they defeated compatriots and hosts Masri to continue their 100% winning record in Group A and cement their place in the knockout stages.
Pyramids emerged victorious from the all-Egyptian encounter against Masri in Alexandria. John Antwi broke the deadlock for the visitors after the break, only for Saidou Simbore to restore parity from the spot. But substitute Mohamed “Dodo” Al-Gabbas who started his career with Masri, broke his boyhood club's hearts when he scored a beauty six minutes from time.
It was Pyramids fifth consecutive victory on the road in this season's Confederation Cup, and the perfect start for their new Croatian coach Ante Cacic who replaced Sebastien Desabre only a week earlier.
While Egypt's giants Ahly and Zamalek each play in a separate group in the Champions League, Masri and Pyramids were drawn in the same group in the Confederation Cup. That would count as a blessing to Egyptian fans who in fact wouldn't mind if Masri and Pyramids play each other in the early games. The sentiment would not have been the same had powerhouses Ahly and Zamalek been drawn together in the group stage.
In Nouakchott, Mauritania's Nouadhibou and Nigeria's Rangers fired blanks as they both failed to score. The result kept both sides five points behind second placed Masri to put in doubt their qualification hopes.
In this group Pyramids have a perfect nine points, Masri (six points), Rangers (one point) and Nouadhibou (one point).
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


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